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Starting a Green Business

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Starting a Green Business

The explosion of organic and eco-friendly products on retail store shelves is more than just a passing fad. It's big business. This means big opportunities for environmentally minded entrepreneurs.

According to the The Organic Trade Association's Manufacturer Survey, the organic industry grew by 21% to reach $17.7 billion in consumer sales in 2006. Over the last decade organic sales have increase by an average of 20%, and this rate is expected to remain steady over the next 20 years.

Successful green businesses not only benefit the environment, but also use green business practices as means to market their products. If you are thinking of starting a green business, consider the following tips:

Find Your Niche. As the natural, organic lifestyle continues to catch on with consumers, there are many growth possibilities. Products such as food, cosmetics and cleaning supplies are growing areas within the organic trade, however, to be successful, you should look for opportunities that match your interests.

Get Certified. To differentiate your product or service as environmentally sound, consider obtaining certification from an independent, third-party. Being certified means that you can include their "ecolabel" on your product's label and other marketing materials. Ecolabeling is important for attracting "green" customers. Learn more about Green Marketing.

Practice What You Preach. The most successful green businesses don't just sell the green lifestyle. They live it. Selling green means being green, and this helps build your brand and image as a socially responsible. Before you start you business, consult the following resources:

  • Green Guide for New Businesses
    Simple steps to adopting environmentally-friendly business practices.

Adopting environmentally-friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new business owners looking to control costs, attract customers, and become socially responsible.

This guide provides you with some important information on implementing an environmental strategy for your business, including steps to becoming energy efficient, compliant with environmental regulations, and a recognized "green business."

Step 1: Comply with Environmental Regulations

As a green business, you should practice what you preach. This means complying with all environmental regulations relevant to your business. Compliance not only protects the environment, it protects your business from fines and legal action from the government.

Step 2: Develop an Environmental Management Plan

Running a green business means creating an environmentally-friendly, energy efficient workplace. A sound environmental plan will help minimize your company's eco-footprint, and encourage green business practices throughout your organization.

Step 3: Build Green

If you are opening a business in a new or remodeled building, make sure you build green and install energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, equipment and lighting. Consult the following resources for more information:

  • Small Business Guide to Energy Efficiency

Whether you own or lease your building, you typically need lighting, heating, air conditioning, power for office equipment, and other services to stay in business. This guide will help you:

  • Become more energy efficient
  • Learn simple energy saving tips
  • Calculate cost savings from improved energy efficiency
  • Consider additional steps toward sustainable business practices that help protect the environment
  • Identify opportunities for making energy efficient upgrades
  • Find more information for auto dealers, home-based, and other specific businesses
  • Locate state and local government programs that provide financial and technical assistance to help small businesses adopt energy efficient technologies and green business practices

Step 4: Buy Green Products

Consider buying green products that are

  • Made from post-consumer, recycled materials
  • Bio-based
  • Non-toxic
  • Energy efficient rated products, such as ENERGY STARŪ
  • Renewable and recyclable
  • Locally produced, such as food that is locally grown and organic

Step 5: Adopt Energy Efficient Practices

Good energy management is good business. The prudent and conservative use of energy is one of the easiest and most cost effective steps you can take to cut costs, increase profitability, and create shareholder value. Given the potentially high returns and minimal risk, implementing energy efficiency practices is at the core of most business environmental management strategies.

  • Conduct an Energy Audit. Whether you are opening a home based business or moving into an existing commercial building, having an energy audit conducted on your facility will help you quickly identify areas where you can save energy costs.
  • Purchase ENERGY STAR appliances and office equipment
  • Provide energy saving tips to your employees
  • Look for green power and renewable energy sources
  • Visit the Small Business Guide to Energy Efficiency for more information

Step 6: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Wastes

Most businesses can save a substantial amount of money by reducing waste. In addition to lower removal costs, waste reduction measures help cut costs on raw materials, office supplies and equipment. Furthermore, by streamlining your operations to reduce waste, you may also be able to enhance your overall efficiency, productivity and public image.

Develop waste management procedures throughout your operations that includes:

  • Use of post-consumer, recycled products
  • Elimination of excessive product packaging materials
  • Optimized use of paper products
  • Participation in recycling programs, such as EPA's WasteWise

Step 7: Conserve Water

The increased demand on our nation's water supply is threatening human health and the environment. By implementing a water efficiency program, you can not only help conserve this precious resource, but cut your costs associated with buying, heating, treating and disposing of it.

  • Have a water audit conducted at your facility by your local water agency
  • Conserve water using best available technology and water saving equipment utilities
  • Minimize discharges to sewer/wastewater
  • For more information visit our Water Conservation Guide.

Step 8: Prevent Pollution

Every business generates waste. For some, it may be only waste paper or dirty water; for others, it may be hazardous or toxic wastes that require special handling and disposal.

Whatever the type or volume of waste your company generates, it is costing you money. You pay for what you use twice - once when you buy it and the second time when you throw it away. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save you money.

Step 9: Create a Green Marketing Strategy

If you are starting a green business, you need to market yourself as one. Adding "green" claims and eco-labels to your marketing strategy will enhance your brand image and secure your market share among the growing number of environmentally concerned consumers.

Step 10: Join Industry Partnership and Stewardship Programs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and stewardship programs that aim to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. These partnerships will help you build relationships with other green business owners in your industry, and build a brand that's credible with your customers.

  • Case Studies and Examples
    Learn about successful companies that have proactive environmental policies.

Companies known for proactive environmental policies can garner favor from customers, employees, regulators, the media, and others. Because of their reputation, they are able to reap benefits such as reduced pressure from activist groups and the media, increased ability to attract and retain high quality employees, improved community relations, enhanced brand image, stronger customer loyalty, and increased appeal to socially responsible investors and portfolio managers.

Ben & Jerry's sustainable business practices have always been a key part of it's corporate image and its economic success.

Whole Foods Market, which was founded in 1980 as one small store in Austin, Texas, became the world's leading retailer of natural and organic foods by remaining true to its original commitment to stringent quality standards and sustainable agriculture.

Patagonia, whose mission statement includes using business to inspire and implement solutions to environmental problems, has parlayed this commitment into a successful brand of outdoor clothing for customers who care about the environment.

GE Ecomagination. It's no mistake that even though only a limited number of customers can purchase the seventeen products featured in its Ecomagination initiative, such as jet engines and locomotives, GE's advertising campaign is aimed at the general public. Why? To build trust in GE's brands.

McDonald's successfully changed it's packaging to limit environmental impact and went on to receive well-publicized recognition for it's efforts from organizations such as the Audubon Society, Conservation International, Keep America Beautiful, the National Recycling Coalition, and the EPA.

Further Reading

Join Industry Partnerships. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and product stewardship programs that aim to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. Joining one of these programs helps you connect with others in your industry, grow your brand, and protect the environment and natural resources.

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